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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 3, Issue 227: Monday, July 16, 2001
- "Microsoft Called U.S. Official to Propose New Talks"
Wall Street Journal (07/16/01) P. A3; Wilke, John R.
Microsoft officials telephoned the head of the Department of Justice's antitrust division last week to propose renewed settlement talks, report sources close to the dispute. The call came just before the company announced plans to open up the desktop design of Windows, but those close to the case later claimed that the Justice Department viewed the concessions as minimum acts of compliance rather than conciliatory gestures. The Justice Department, together with the 18 states suing Microsoft, jointly filed their case to a district appeals court on Friday, emphasizing the need to act swiftly to find remedies for the Microsoft antitrust ruling. While successfully defending itself against a court-ordered breakup, Microsoft was found to be a monopoly by a federal appeals court. The company has 10 days to respond to the Friday court filing and 90 days to appeal their case to the Supreme Court, although Microsoft lawyers indicated that they would focus on the district court proceedings. Settlement talks have fallen through in three separate incidences, and those most familiar with the case expect it to be resolved in court even though the Justice Department under the Bush administration said it would rather settle than fight a prolonged court battle.
- "Easy Season for Open Source"
ZDNet (07/13/01); Leibovitch, Evan
Recent months have seen steady progress for the growth of Linux, writes open source expert Evan Leibovitch. Leibovitch lauds the Linux 2.4 kernel, the subsequent upgrades from Caldera, SuSe and RedHat, as well as new versions of KDE, Samba, Xfree86, and various other packages. He also notes the quality of Mandrake 8.0 for its ability to run GNOME and KDE applications. In addition, he reminds open source advocates that work on the Linux 2.5 kernel has already begun. Leibovitch says the recent release of the first version of a reference specification from the Linux Standards Base Group will allow Linux vendors to produce interoperable programs, ending the days when fragmentation was one of the greatest threats to the growth of open source. Although he admits that the use of Linux for desktops is still in the early stages, he notes that Ford Europe has announced plans to institute an open source desktop and says, in general, momentum toward Linux desktops is continuing. Indeed, Leibovitch contends, on the basis that merely providing an alternative to Windows is a kind of success, Linux desktop developers have already scored an impressive victory.
- "High-Tech Women on the Future of Female Entrepreneurship"
Daily Record (07/11/01) Vol. 2, No. 8, P. 7A; Wiggins, Ellen
Debra Diamond of Debra Diamond & Associates and Joan Korenman, director of the Center for Women and Information Technology, recently discussed the future of women-owned tech businesses. Some of the biggest obstacles women face, Korenman says, include a lack of venture capital, the stereotypical view that women are not as IT-competent as men, and an imbalance between work and family obligations. Diamond contends that a lack of access to networks of informal relationships, such as those men enjoy with schoolmates or club members, is the biggest barrier to female tech entrepreneurs. Despite these hurdles, both Diamond and Korenman believe that the situation will improve--Diamond expects growing numbers of women, a less prejudiced younger generation, and the changing face of business will play to women's advantage, while Korenman says increasing demand for IT will benefit women. Furthermore, Diamond and Korenman list skills women possess that can position them ahead of their male counterparts, including an aptitude for teamwork and consensus-building, and systematic decision-making. As to whether the "uphill battle" of building a company strengthens women in particular, Korenman claims that it could be as much help as hindrance, while Diamond believes that gender is irrelevant.
To learn about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, please visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Tech Bust: What Goes Around Comes Around"
Wall Street Journal (07/16/01) P. A1; Ip, Greg
The current economic slowdown in the United States is having a ripple effect across the economies of foreign countries. Slowing or contracting growth is occurring in Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, Mexico, and other countries that are trading partners with the United States. Analysts say the tech boom of the late 1990s caused the U.S. to increase its imports, which reached a total of $1.25 trillion last year, much of which concerned technology. With the economy in the U.S. slowing, investment in foreign companies that provided such imports have declined, causing their nations' economies to sink. In some cases, analysts say, multinational companies are reacting to the U.S. slowdown through the reduction of interests in other countries, furthering the slowdown's spread. However, analysts warn that eventually this rippling effect could return to the U.S., with domestic companies affected by the troubles of their foreign trading partners.
- "Canada's On-line Copyright Policy Takes Shape"
Globetechnology.com (07/12/01); Geist, Michael
The Canadian government is moving in the right direction on online copyright policy by preserving a balance between content creators and consumers, contends Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa Law School and the director of e-commerce law at the Goodmans law firm. However, Geist stresses the importance of the government finding its own solution to the issue. So far, Canadian officials have done just that, with Ottawa starting another round of consultations into the issue in late June. With passage of the World Intellectual Property Organization's Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty in 1996, governments have been moving their copyright rules into compliance with the new requirements. In 1998, the United States set into motion its Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and this year, the European Union passed its Copyright Directive. Canada's current proposal addresses the new "make available" right by recommending that artists be granted a new limited copyright for on-demand music delivered online. The proposal addresses the issues regarding use of technical measures to protect work online and protection for rights management information but does not seek to outlaw technology that can circumvent protection devices or end the "fair dealing" exception to copyrights. Finally, the proposal favors creating a "notice and takedown" system for ISPs, which would be liable for copyright infringement if they do not remove the content.
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For information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP.
- "Radical 'X-Architecture' Chips Push Speed, Power"
E-Commerce Times (07/13/01); McDonald, Tim
A new breakthrough in chip design, called "X-Architecture," promises to increase processing speed by 10 percent while reducing the amount of energy used by 20 percent. The new technology works on the principle of reducing the distance and the amount of interconnect wiring linking transistors on a chip by allowing diagonal connections. Traditional chips have been regulated to grid designs because automated design technologies never emerged to help engineers implement X-Architecture. Toshiba and Simplex Solutions jointly solved this problem and are currently working with an industry coalition of 14 members, including IBM, which now incorporates the X-Architecture in its servers.
- "Worms Will Become Dynamic, Smarter"
IDG News Service (07/11/01)
Internet worms will be harder to control in the future, reports Jose Nazario of Crimelabs Security Group. "We're going to see a paradigm shift in what worms have to offer...we're going to see worms evolve," he says. Future worms are expected to include components that can be upgraded following their release, says Nazario, with worm writers sharing updates through Internet sites and Usenets. Nazario warns that the new worms will integrate several protocols, making them harder to spot or halt. Anomaly detection, agent-based intrusion detection, and poison updates should be used to prevent damage from worms, he suggests. Nazario presented his findings at the annual Black Hat Briefings, held last week in Las Vegas.
- "India's IT Revenues Top $10B in 00/01-Survey"
Revenue in the Indian IT sector totaled $10.5 billion for the year that ended in March, a 50 percent increase over the previous 12-month period, Dataquest reported on Thursday. Domestic IT revenue increased 37 percent, and IT exports grew 64 percent, Dataquest found. Software export revenue for the year equaled $6.2 billion, an increase of 55 percent, particularly notable on account of the current downturn in the U.S. economy. The report ranked the leading Indian IT companies on the basis of revenue, with the HCL group No. 1, the Tata group No. 2, and Wipro, Compaq India, and Infosys Technologies rounding out the top five.
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- "Workers Increase Net Usage, Employers Increase Net Monitoring"
CyberAtlas (07/11/01); Pastore, Michael
Even as employees increase their Internet usage at work by 23 percent, the number of companies monitoring them is growing twice as fast, according to new workplace Web surveillance statistics. Nielsen//NetRatings found workers are logging on more frequently, for longer periods, and visiting more sites than one year ago. NetRatings' Sean Kaldor says that some of the increase is due to non-work-related uses, but much of it is because workers are integrating the Internet into their jobs by planning business travel online and visiting corporate business portals. Taylor Nelson Sofres' Web@Work Survey shows that European workers are also going online more frequently and that companies in the United Kingdom are by far the strictest in regards to monitoring employee Internet use. A separate study by the Privacy Foundation shows that one-third of the American workforce is subjected to constant monitoring. Interestingly, despite employers claims to want to make the workplace more efficient and stem potential harassment cases, the leading factor in businesses adopting Web surveillance is low cost. Surveillance solutions are selling $140 million annually and growing twice as fast as the number of workers going online for the first time.
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- "Experts Predict Rosy Future for InfiniBand"
InfoWorld.com (07/10/01); Lee, Stephen
InfiniBand, the successor to current PCI--or peripheral component interconnect--connections, promises to change the way companies utilize their computers. InfiniBand CTO Jim Mott says his company's technology lets computers transfer information at 2.5 Gbps, allowing huge pieces of data to be transferred quickly from node to node. Mott says this gives businesses more options in how to build and service their own servers, reducing service costs and reliance on vendors. Although Hewlett-Packard senior I/O architect Mike Krause agrees that InfiniBand will transform the way modular servers are built and maintained, he says other technologies such as PCI and the third generation of I/O will serve similar purposes.
- "Scrambling for the Wireless Jewel"
Internet.com (07/09/01); Scevak, Niki
The integration of PDAs and mobile phones is coming toward an end point. However, a winner has yet to emerge in the race between PDA manufacturers and wireless phone makers. The PDA market has been spurred by business professionals' need to send and receive email and store and access email addresses. Professionals also require information management, which lends itself to the need for integration. Palm and iPaq have taken advantage of the need for integration, incorporating key desktop applications, including Microsoft Outlook. Network access is also spurring demand. Handspring has incorporated an expansion slot for a wireless modem into its Visor line of handhelds. Meanwhile, wireless phone manufacturers are making their own strides. For example, Ericsson recently introduced its R380 model that offers calendaring and contact management applications.
- "ICANN Board Member Calls Governance Paper 'Wishy-Washy'"
Newsbytes (07/13/01); McGuire, David
On July 12, the ICANN At-Large Membership Study Committee released its first discussion paper. The paper concludes that ICANN has to find a way to include public opinion in its decision-making process, but it fails to answer how this should be accomplished. ICANN board member Karl Auerbach labeled the discussion paper "wishy-washy," saying that the document does not commit to democratic principles. ICANN will have a difficult time gaining legitimacy if it continues to govern using "consensus development" as opposed to a democratic model of governance, according to Auerbach. ICANN's staff has too much say in the decision-making process, notes Auerbach and other ICANN critics. The discussion paper is meant to be vague, and is meant to generate discussion, says former ICANN director Esther Dyson. The piece may be "wishy-washy," but it is a significant move for ICANN, notes Rob Courtney, a policy analyst for the Center for Democracy and Technology, who points out that the at-large committee does favor public participation. "I'm encouraged by the fact that they released a thought piece," says Courtney.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Handling Even Your Big Glitches Gracefully"
Washington Post (07/15/01) P. L1; Johnson, Carrie
Glitches are a fact of life in the IT industry, but industry veterans say those responsible can save their jobs if they follow certain guidelines. Lee Hecht Harrison executive vice president Bernadette Kenny recommends that the person who caused a specific glitch should assume immediate responsibility and not assign blame to others. She says if an employee loses his or her job as a result, he or she should be honest about it when interviewing with potential employers, emphasizing the positive aspects of his performance. Novices should look to a mentor when broaching the subject and ask for help before starting a particularly difficult assignment, says Keith Morneau of Northern Virginia Community College. Technology and customer service consultant Calvin Sun advises that those responsible should have a possible solution to present to their boss and keep anyone affected by the glitch abreast of their progress. A healthy perspective also helps, provided the mistake is not repeated, explains Paul-Tittle Search Group technology recruiter Ron Cimino.
- "Universities Aren't Serving the IT Workforce"
Potomac Tech Journal (07/09/01) Vol. 2, No. 28, P. 19; Grunstra, Neal S.
The nation's colleges and universities are the main cause of the current shortage of skilled IT workers, argues Neal S. Grunstra of Mindbank Consulting Group. Grunstra notes the relative unpopularity of the computer-science major at U.S. institutions, citing a 2000 American College and Testing Service survey that found that, of high-school seniors, only 3 percent planned on a computer-science major. Grunstra believes that this unpopularity can be directly linked to the number of higher-math courses such as calculus and linear algebra that most computer-science programs require as prerequisites. Nearly every job in the IT industry has no need for this math, Grunstra contends, yet despite continued talk from both higher-education institutions and business that computer-science programs and the IT industry need to reconcile their interests, the problem persists. In many cases, Grunstra says, higher-math courses were added to the computer-science curriculum in order to give the program weight when many were still skeptical about computer science's place in the academy. Now, those higher-math courses cannot be removed without institutions risking their computer-science program's accreditation. Community colleges as well as certified training centers are more likely to offer the sort of IT training that business needs, Grunstra says.
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- "Analyzing a Good Net Career"
eWeek (07/09/01) Vol. 18, No. 26, P. 48; Chen, Anne
Web data analysts are already in heavy demand to help prioritize a company's e-business initiatives by measuring their effectiveness in terms of return on investment and customer experience. However, Gartner estimates that there is a 2-to-1 ratio of demand to supply and that the amount of e-business analysts required for an enterprise will triple by 2005. Web data analysts must be skilled in IT, statistics, and project management, but no formal educational program as yet exists for Web analytics. However, most large IT and business- intelligence companies possess employees with the requisite skills to become analysts. Gartner analyst Frank Buytendijk says this potential workforce remains largely untapped because executives incorrectly assume that only Web masters can be analysts.
- "Feds Closing IT Gap"
InternetWeek (07/09/01) No. 868, P. 1; Tillett, L. Scott
Federal agencies are catching up with e-business through their e-government initiatives, adopting e-business methods such as outsourcing to facilitate their projects. The U.S. Customs Service has a five-year, $1.3 billion plan to develop a system that will enable businesses to submit trading data online, while the Interior Department is enhancing its Oracle database to support Web-based transactions between it and land or mineral rights owners. The automation of paper-based processes must be achieved through critical infrastructure before business-to-government (B2G) services can be implemented. Security is the first issue that must be ironed out since the Office of Management and Budget cannot approve an e-government project until solid security measures are in place. Companies that wish to do business with federal agencies over the Web may have to upgrade their corporate structure, while services partners must acquaint themselves with collaboration software and learn to use collaborative tools. E-government efforts are benefiting from an influx of workers as a result of the e-business downturn, and legacy system consolidation projects such as those being undertaken by the IRS and the Navy will ease B2G transactions. The federal budget for IT spending in fiscal year 2002 anticipates a 1 percent rise to $44.9 billion, reports Federal Sources.
- "Dot-Com Survivors"
Industry Standard (07/16/01) Vol. 4, No. 27, P. 30; Helft, Miguel
Sixty-six percent of 123 pure-play e-tailers polled by The Industry Standard have survived the e-commerce shakeout. Out of 80 private dot-coms that raised a minimum of $10 million in venture capital, 45 are still in operation. Meanwhile, only seven out of 43 public companies have gone under, with 25 still operating by themselves and 11 having been acquired by other companies. These seemingly positive figures, however, are offset by the bleak performance levels of e-commerce: Only 18 of the prevailing 36 public companies are worth more than $500 million, while a mere six are valued at over $1 billion; the private firms show no indication of doing any better, and many pure-plays have had to cut costs. Sustaining their growth will also be difficult now that the Net shopping spurt has died down. Amazon may have experienced losses recently, but its sales are expected to reach roughly $3.4 billion this year. Its high-volume, low-margin e-commerce strategy is difficult to copy; PlaneRx, eToys, and Buy.com's own efforts have been detrimental to them. Other online retailers survived by opting for a low-volume, high-margin approach that serves niche markets. The idea that the Web would be ideal for disintermediation proved faulty, and many companies suffered as a consequence. Others teamed up with established distribution networks rather than fight them, and prevailed. EBay remains the e-tail leader with $8 billion in annual sales and consistent profits, thanks to a business model that collects fees from transactions and does away with inventory, logistics, and distribution networks.
- "IETF Stays Course on International Domain Names"
Network World (07/09/01) Vol. 18, No. 28, P. 12; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy
The Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is again moving forthrightly toward developing multilingual domain name translation protocol now that it has determined that a Walid corporate patent cannot challenge the IDN's work. The IDN is working on a protocol that translates foreign language characters into U.S. ASCII during DNS transmission, and has dubbed its technical approach IDNA because it supports multilingual domain names in applications. For-profit company Walid, however, is backing down, and IDN co-Chair Marc Blanchet says IDN will likely encounter further patent challenges due to the public nature of the IDN's work and its inability to prevent companies from filing patents related to it. An IDNA protocol document may be ready as soon as this autumn.
- "Generation Now"
Red Herring (07/15/01) No. 100, P. 48; Malik, Om; Hibbard, Justin
Many analysts believe that the rise in U.S. workers' productivity over the past five years is directly tied to the increase in corporate IT spending in the same period of time. However, with the economy slowing, many companies want to maintain high productivity through IT systems that improve the efficiency of their enterprise. This has led to renewed interest in the concept of real-time computing, a process in which a company's information systems are accurate up-to-the-minute--as opposed to the dominant method in U.S. business, batch-mode computing, in which a company's inventory and sales data is update on a monthly or longer basis and then distributed throughout the enterprise. Proponents of real-time computing argue that it could prevent the sort of inventory gluts that have been plaguing tech companies recently because drop-offs in demand would be noticeable immediately, rather than a month or two after later. Already, vendors both old and new are rushing to offer the software needed to track and manage supplies, inventory, and other aspects of the enterprise. However, not every analyst is convinced that real-time computing will be a panacea for industry: just integrating real-time systems with legacy systems will be a formidable task, they say. Also, there is no clear evidence that an improvement in how companies process information will then cause an improvement in the overall productivity of that company and, in turn, the overall economy. In order for real-time computing to work at an optimum level, companies will likely have to share sensitive data, something skeptics say few companies are willing to do as of yet.